Home . Walking Tour Index . Print Version

WATERLOO STREET, MUSEUMS, MARINA BAY & LAU PA SAT

Albert Street Pedestrian Mall

ABDUL GAFOOR MOSQUE

Turn left as you exit The InnCrowd, then left onto Madras Street. Go through the unnamed alley next to Madras Hotel and it'll take you to Perak Road. Directly opposite, you'll find Mayo Street. You can't miss the beautifully restored Abdul Gafoor Mosque along this street, with its unique Arab and Victorian architecture. Built in 1907, this mosque is named after its founder, Shaik Abdul Gafoor Shaik Hyder, a South Indian lawyer's clerk. The mosque catered mainly to the Indian Muslim migrants who settled in the vicinity.

Remove your footwear before you enter the mosque. The mosque welcomes visitors, and if you're not sufficiently covered up, they'll provide you with a sarong or a long robe. Visitors are not allowed in the main prayer hall, but feel free to wander around the rest of the premises and take as many pictures of this beautiful mosque as you wish.

Continue along Mayo Street, cross Jalan Besar, turn right and walk across Sungei Road. Walk along Rochor Road and you'll see a complex on your left called Rochor Centre. The shops on the first floor of Rochor Centre, which face the main road, are particularly interesting. They sell a variety of Buddhist and Taoist paraphernalia, including things which people burn as offerings for the dead, like Hell credit cards and currency, Hell passport and airline tickets, paper cellphones and paper cans of Guinness! Souvenirs, any takers?

KUAN IM TONG HOOD CHE TEMPLE & SRI KRISHNAN TEMPLE

Directly opposite Rochor Centre is Albert Mall, a pedestrian mall teeming with activity. Here, you'll find buskers executing their acrobatic moves, medicinal men peddling Chinese herbal cures ("koyok") providing live demonstrations of their healing powers, the odd snake charmer, street vendors selling imitation Pradas, Oakleys, etc., and shopkeepers selling all and sundry. Few tourists venture here, but it's definitely worth a trip.

Walk straight on and you'll find a Chinese temple and a Hindu temple, and in front of them, plenty of stalls selling fresh flowers and other offerings to the gods.

The Chinese temple is called Kuan Im Tong Hood Che Temple and it is dedicated to Kuan Im (the Goddess of Mercy). This temple is usually crowded with devotees lighting incense and offering fresh fruits and flowers. Brave through the crowd and you'll be greeted with the sight of numerous devotees kneeling before the Goddess, noisily shaking a bunch of sticks and tossing pieces of wax on the ground. These devotees are there to ask the Goddess for answers to their questions.

If you have a question in mind, you're more than welcome to do the same. It's FREE too. There'll be a counter on your right where you can pick up a bunch of sticks and 2 pieces of red wax (which represent the yin and yang). Remove your shoes, kneel before the Goddess, shake the bunch of sticks as you think of the question. Soon, a stick will fall onto the ground. When that happens, toss the 2 pieces of wax. If one lands facing up and the other lands facing down, that stick will answer your question. Do not put the stick back into its holder (that stick has a number), but take everything with you and hand it back to the man behind the counter. He'll let you have a slip of paper with the answer. There're reference books in English next to the counter as well with a more comprehensive version of the answer.

Before I move on, if the 2 pieces of wax both land facing up or down, the stick on the ground will not answer your question. You'll have to replace the stick in its holder and re-do it all. If the 2 pieces of wax persist in landing on the same side after the third try, you'll have to give it up as the Goddess will not answer your question.

Even if you're all "templed-out", you'll still find the Kuan Im Tong Hood Che Temple interesting. Guaranteed. Photography is not allowed in this Temple though, and there's a security officer on a power trip who diligently enforces this rule.

Next to the Kuan Im Tong Hood Che Temple is a Hindu temple called Sri Krishnan Temple. This is probably the only Hindu temple in the world where you'll find Chinese Taoist devotees offering incense to the Hindu gods! Remove your shoes before entering the Temple, ring the bell hanging above the entrance, and remember to walk in a clockwise direction when visiting Hindu temples.

THE WATERLOO ARTS BELT

You're at Waterloo Street now. Continue walking straight on and you'll come across a yellow chapel-like building on your right. This building was a Baba Methodist Church constructed in the late 19th century. Located at one end of the Waterloo Arts Belt, this disused church is now the home of Sculpture Square. Take a look at the exhibits on display. They are open from 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. on weekdays and from 12.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free.

As you stroll down Waterloo Street, you'll find several more places dedicated to the arts, like the YMS Arts Centre and the Singapore Calligraphy Centre. Feel free to venture into them to see what they offer or view their exhibits.

At the other end of the Waterloo Arts Belt is the Singapore Art Museum on your left. The museum's main entrance faces Bras Basah Road. The building was once St Joseph's Institution, a Catholic boys' school founded in 1852.

The museum features modern and contemporary art. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Sundays, and from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Fridays. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is S$3, but free on Fridays between 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.

There are free guided tours at 11.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, with an additional tour at 3.30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. If you're interested in modern and contemporary art and you intend to visit the museum, take the free guided tour. I have visited the museum twice and I couldn't understand any of the exhibits on my own!

VICTORIA STREET

Several of the roads opposite the Singapore Art Museum have been sealed off for the construction of a new MRT line. To get to the other side of town, we'll take Victoria Street.

After you exit from the Singapore Art Museum, turn left and walk down Bras Basah Road. You'll pass the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on your right. Completed in 1846, this is the oldest Catholic church in Singapore.

Turn right onto Victoria Street. Almost immediately to your left, you'll see a beautifully restored chapel. Once the home of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), a school, orphanage and home to babies left by unwed mothers, the compound was restored at the price of S$100 million and reopened in 1997 under the name CHIJMES www.chijmes.com.sg. Take a walk around the compound and browse through the quaint, little shops within.

ASIAN CIVILISATION MUSEUM

Continuing along Victoria Street, you'll come to its intersection with Stamford Road. Walk across to the other side of Stamford Road, then turn to your right.

Turn left onto Armenian Street. On your right, at No. 45, is Singapore's first multicultural and multidisciplinary arts centre, the Substation. Step inside to see what's in store for you. The substation has an art shop, an art gallery, a dance studio and a 120-seat theatre.

A short distance away, at No. 39, is the Asian Civilisations Museum. This museum traces and presents the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans, and thus presents pieces from China, Southeast Asia, India and West Asia.

The museum is open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is S$3, but is free from 6.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Fridays. There are free guided tours of the museum at 11.00 and 2.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, with an additional tour at 3.30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Of the 3 paying museums in the area - the Singapore Arts Museum, the Asian Civilisations Museum, and the Singapore History Museum (along Stamford Road), I always enjoy myself most at the Asian Civilisations Museum. I find the exhibits at the Asian Civilisations Museum easier to relate to, varied, and rich in history. It's a question of taste really. I must, however, mention that the Singapore History Museum offers a 1-hour ghost tour entitled "Tales of the Night" on Fridays at 7.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., which could be interesting. Admission is S$3, and the museum is open from 9.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Sundays, and from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Fridays. There are also free guided tours of the museum at 11.00 and 2.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Fridays, with an additional tour at 3.00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

I must not neglect to mention that there's a second, newer and larger Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place, by the Singapore River. If you only have time for one museum in Singapore, the one at Express Place is an obvious choice.

It should be time for lunch by now. Opposite the museum is an old coffee shop called the Hock Hiap Leong Coffee Shop. The ngoh hiang ("5 spices") stall serves the crunchiest prawn fritters. Next to it, the char kway teow (Chinese flat rice noodles fried with bean sprouts, soy sauce and cockles) is one of the best in Singapore. Expect to queue for your plate of char kway teow, but it's cheap and the taste well worth your wait. While waiting, you'll be treated to the culinary skills of the cook. One interesting aspect of this old coffee shop is its open-concept. You'll know what I mean when you see it!

FORT CANNING PARK

At the end of Armenian Street, turn right onto Canning Rise. Very soon, on your left, you'll see Singapore's Registry of Marriages. Feel free to step inside. Couples all decked up queue to register their marriages here.

Behind the Registry of Marriages is Fort Canning Hill, known in Malay as Bukit Langaran ("Forbidden Hill"), once the seat of the Malay Kingdom and the burial ground of the Sultans.

Close to the Registry of Marriages, at the foot of the hill, is an ancient tomb, believed to the resting place of Sultan Iskandar Shah. Since 1822, this tomb has been regarded as a "keramat" (an auspicious place to visit, where some people believe that they can ask for special favours). Sultan Iskandar Shah was the last of 5 kings who ruled Singapore in the 14th century. Singapore came under attack by enemies and Sultan Iskandar Shah escaped. He founded another kingdom, Melaka (now Malacca). Records indicate that Sultan Iskandar Shah died in or about 1420, but do not say where he was buried.

Fort Canning Hill was where the Treaty of 1824 between John Crawford and Sultan Hussein was signed. In this treaty, the Sultan ceded the island of Singapore to the East India Company. In 1859, the British colonial government turned the hill into a military fort and named it after Viscount George Canning, the first Viceroy of India. Sir Stamford Raffles also built his residence, Singapore's first Government House here. Look out also for the Spice Garden, a small replica of the original 19-hectare tract Sir Stamford Raffles established in 1822 as the first botanical garden in Singapore.

Fort Canning Park sits on Fort Canning Hill and it is one of the most interesting parks in Singapore to visit. Entry to this historical park is certainly not forbidden, so spend some time exploring it. The park is lit from 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. and admission is free, except if you choose to visit the Battle Box within the park. Admission to the Battle Box is costly at S$8.

As you enter the park through its main entrance, read the tombstone inscriptions lining the walls stretching all the way up the hill. Tombstones from a 19th century cemetery can also be seen on the far side.

As you ascend the hill, you may notice brick walls hidden beneath the plants. These are remnants of the fort wall which were supposed to protect the fort from enemy attacks. Higher up, you can also see cannons. These cannons are positioned to face the sea.

If you are lucky, you might stumble upon some artifacts in the soil along the path. Some 30,000 artifacts have been recovered over the years, some of them dating back to the 14th century! This is probably the only area where there are archaelogical digs in Singapore.

At the top of the hill, a reservoir is all fenced up. During the Second World War, to prevent the Japanese from poisoning the water in the reservoir, the British fenced up the reservoir and assigned soldiers to guard it.

Beneath the reservoir is the Battle Box, an underground British military base. This was also where the British made their decision to surrender to the Japanese. There is a network of tunnels that lead to rooms in there. And in case of emergency, the personnel can exit by a sally port i.e. a passageway which leads to the other side of the hill.

At the top of the hill is a 19th century fort gate. This is all that remains of the fortress which used to occupy the area. There are also 2 old cupolas in the park, probably meant as resting areas in the park.

Sitting in the centre of the park is Fort Canning Centre, a 65-year-old restored military barracks which has become a major cultural venue.

Aside from being a popular venue for wedding photography, the park is also a popular venue for the arts, including sculpture exhibitions, plays and even outdoor ballet under the stars!

COLEMAN STREET

After visiting Fort Canning Park, backtrack down Canning Rise, in the direction of the Registry of Marriages, towards Coleman Street.

Stamp collectors will be happy to know that the Singapore Philatelic Museum is located at No. 23B Coleman Street, on your right. The museum is open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Tuesdays to Sundays. Like the other 3 museums mentioned, this one is also closed on Mondays. Admission is S$2.

Right next door at No. 23A is Singapore's Freemasons Hall. This club was founded in 1886 and membership is open to freemasons belonging to the lodges who hold their meetings at the Temple. Overseas freemasons are especially welcomed to visit the club and to lodge meetings. It is a matter of pride for freemasons to make visitors feel at home.

Sir Stamford Raffles was a freemason and a lodge in Singapore has been named after him. The coat of arms of Sir Stamford Raffles is displayed in the lodge at every meeting of Sir Stamford Raffles Lodge No. 7444 E.C. In the dining room of the Freemasons Hall, the pictures of Singapore's President and First Lady, HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip, the Grand Master, HRH Prince Michael, the Duke of Kent and his family, and Sir Stamford Raffles are displayed.

PANORAMIC VIEW FROM THE 71ST FLOOR

Turn left onto Hill Street and you will find the oldest church in Singapore. Built in 1836, the Armenian Church is also known as the Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator). St Gregory the Illuminator was a 4th century monk who converted Armenians to Christianity. Originally, the church had a domed roof and a bell-turret. However, in 1853, both features were removed for structural reasons and replaced with a pitched roof and spire.

Walk till the end of Hill Street then turn right onto Stamford Road. Keep walking until you arrive at Raffles City, on your left. Raffles City is hard to miss with the hotel, Swissotel Singapore The Stamford, towering above. This hotel is the second tallest in the world. It was the tallest at the time of completion, but has since been surpassed by Baiyoke Tower II in Bangkok.

From 3 to 9 p.m., it's happy hour at the New Asia Bar, on the 71st floor of Swissotel. There's no better place to rest your tired feet! Enjoy the spectacular view whilst sipping cocktail at half price during happy hour. It's especially nice to watch the sunset from here and the lights come on.

WORLD'S LARGEST FOUNTAIN

Raffles City is also the start of a shopping belt. An underground mall, the CityLink Mall, links Raffles City to Suntec City, yet another shopping enclave.

Smack in the middle of Suntec City is the world's largest fountain, the Fountain of Wealth. Water from the fountain shoots up to 30 metres high. You can view the fountain from either the basement of Suntec City or at the road level. The fountain is turned off 3 times a day (from 9.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m., 2.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. to 7.45 p.m.) so that visitors can take part in the ritual of walking round the fountain. Walking round the fountain and touching its water is believed to bring good luck. Give it a try! You can also dedicate a song for free between 7.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. daily. There is also a free laser message dedication service on weekends and public holidays.

At the basement near the fountain, there is a koi pond, many restaurants and a large food court, with a large selection of local fare.

LAU PA SAT FESTIVAL MARKET

Alternatively, you could have dinner at the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. From 7.00 p.m., a street (Boon Tat Street) next to Lau Pa Sat is closed to traffic and is transformed into an outdoor dining area. You should definitely try the satay (barbequed meat skewers). A stick costs 40 cents and you can dine under the stars.

To get there, take the MRT to Raffles Place MRT Station. It's just 1 stop away from City Hall MRT Station. Walk down Robinson Road and you'll easily find the brightly lit food centre.

~ Happy Touring ~

More of the Pedestrian Mall...

It's cross cultural

The hustle and bustle of Albert Street

The Great Singapore Sale

Dried foodstuffs

Trishaw Park -No coupons needed

Wet market at Albert Street

Bugis Village

Waterloo Street Pedestrian Mall

Goddess of Mercy Temple

Almost always crowded

 

Offering incense

Go on, light one too

Pat the Laughing Buddha's belly

Bird's eye view of the Temple

Sri Krishnan Temple

Hindu deities

Intricate designs

Restoration works are underway

Craftsman repainting the deities

One of the altars

Another altar

Fresh flower offerings

Chinese offering incense at the Hindu Temple?

Hindu devotee praying

Craftsman from India whom Hai spoke to

Another craftsman

Sculpture Square

Used to be a Backpackers' Hostel

Al fresco dining next to Sculpture Square

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

MPH along Stamford Road

Read the inscriptures

Gothic Gate at Fort Canning Park

Old Christian Cemetery

Old headstone

Fort Gate

Sally Port

Thru the Port

Greenery at Fort Canning Park

Signs amidst lush foliage

The Park by night

Canon

Sunset at the Park

Fort Gate

Twin Cupolas
(before the vandals struck)

The cultural centre

Vandalised!!!

Fort Canning Centre

Singapore Philatelic Museum

Armenian Church

Fountain of Wealth

 

All Rights Reserved. Text & Images Copyright 2002-2003 The InnCrowd.
Home . Forum. The InnCrowd Hostel . Guestbook

Backpackers Hostel Singapore